John Kuntz at the Grand Coulee Dam. (Photo courtesy of John Kuntz)

John Kuntz at the Grand Coulee Dam. (Photo courtesy of John Kuntz)

Man kayaking entire Columbia River crosses US border

POULSBO — John Kuntz is back in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

The Port Gamble man making the Columbia River trek from the “source” of the river in British Columbia to its terminus in the Pacific Ocean is a little more than halfway through his trip. He reached the Washington state border around the first of September.

As of Sept. 10, he had passed Grand Coulee and was making his way toward Bridgeport.

Kuntz is making the 1,250-mile journey by kayak in honor of Erica Reith, a 19-year-old family friend who died tragically years ago in an accident. The trip also aims to raise awareness and money for “Eri’s Adventure Project,” which encourages younger people to get outdoors and works with schools to create an educational component to adventure.

To that end, students from Illinois to British Columbia have been following his progress through an online tracker. He has also video conferenced with students, answering questions about his trip.

“It’s been really fun fielding their questions,” Kuntz said.

Kuntz has also been receiving correspondence along the way. Mail sent to a P.O. Box in Port Gamble is delivered to various points along his route. His last major destination was Grand Coulee, where he picked up some more mail. He said he’s gotten approximately 80 letters in total.

“Getting postcards from the kids is super exciting,” Kuntz said. “It inspires me to keep working on those long days.”

With the passing of Labor Day, Kuntz noted that he has seen far fewer people out on the water and at the campgrounds. He described Keller Ferry Campground in Lincoln County as “virtually empty,” a change from the previous portions of his trip.

But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The quieter atmosphere adds a dimension of peace to the dramatic landscapes of Grand Coulee, with its huge sandstone cliffs and variety of wildlife. The wildfire smoke he experienced in British Columbia, which obscured much of his surroundings, is also gone.

“Not a lot of people out here,” Kuntz said. “A few fisherman, a few boaters, the Labor Day crowd has gone.”

Kuntz’s next major stop is Wenatchee. To follow his trip, click here.

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com.

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